The invasive alien red-eared slider turtle, Trachemys scripta, as a carrier of STEF-disease pathogens.
The fungal pathogens Fusarium falciforme and Fusarium keratoplasticum are responsible for the sea turtle egg fusariosis (STEF) throughout main nesting areas of the world. In this study, we investigated whether eggs of the invasive alien red-eared slider turtle, Trachemys scripta, can carry these fungal pathogens. Using multilocus sequence typing of four nuclear DNA regions, we found that eggs of T. scripta naturally can carry these two Fusarium pathogenic species, as well as other Fusarium species belonging to the Fusarium solani species complex. Physiological studies on F. falciforme and F. keratoplasticum isolates revealed that their optimal growth temperature coincided with the pivotal temperature for T. scripta embryos, ca 29.5 ± 0.5°C, providing an evidence of a potential advantageous biological property for host colonization and virulence. A host-pathogen interaction network analysis of species of the FSSC and their hosts confirmed that F. falciforme and F. keratoplasticum are generalist pathogens in a wide range of animal hosts of worldwide geographical distribution. Finally, we show that nesting areas of this invasive turtle T. scripta in the Mediterranean freshwater marshes can act as chronic reservoirs of these STEF pathogens, and this invasive species can act as a potential vector for the spread of STEF among wild native species and even to humans.